Aquamarine Jewel Full Of Hope & Tranquility
This was my experience every day for one week at The Sivananda Ashram YogaRetreat. It was a true sanctuary of peace and natural beauty located on a paradise-like island with crystal clear water and pure white sand just across the bay from Nassau.
My adventure began on a Saturday morning as I arrived on the island of Nassau earlier than expected. I gathered my luggage and took a 20 minute taxi ride to a dock. As I waited patiently for the boat to whisk me away to paradise, I encountered two lovely ladies and we made our introductions. Both women had traveled quite a distance to get to the Ashram. Anna came from Germany, Katie from Nova Scotia, and both were now part of the Teacher Training Course (TTC). They would be living and working on the ashram for one month. The TTC is based on "Karma Yoga", also known as Buddha Yoga or the "discipline of action" and is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita, a sacred Sanskrit scripture of Hinduism. Of the four paths to realization, Karma Yoga is the science of achieving perfection in action. Karma Yoga is an intrinsic part of many derivative types of yoga.
Shortly after our introductions, the boat arrived and we were on our way - well not quite! First we had to lug bags and boxes of HEAVY produce onto the boat. I thought to myself, “You have to be kidding me. I’m on vacation! My poor back!” However, I actually didn't mind at all. We all pitched in, and I reminded myself, “This is "Karma Yoga!”, although I noticed the two men on the boat were not practicing "Karma Yoga" - they were barely helping at all! Plus, the tiny walkway between the dock and the boat was making me plenty nervous that one of us was going to end up in the water! Needless to say, we all made it to the island in one piece and received some fruit for our effort. Thankfully, I caught on pretty quickly and adapted fast because the Ashram was not very organized and almost too laid back when it came to answering my pretty straight forward questions, such as, where is my room, and other basic questions one might ask upon arrival. Being resourceful, I went traipsing around the place and gave myself the unguided tour and finally found my room: “Hallelujah!” I thought to myself. “I’d best get to the beach fast and do some meditating before I lose it.” However, by the evening I figured out how it all worked and whatever I still didn't know I would just learn as I went with the flow.
The Ashram is built around a semi-closed, outdoor meditation temple. There are spacious exercise platforms facing the warm blue-green waters of the Caribbean Sea, the bay and the gardens. I opted to stay in one of the private wooden cabins. The room had basic sleeping quarters, both rustic and unembellished, which worked fine for me. The other option was to pitch a tent in one of the quiet garden areas or coconut groves.
The energizing program of the ashram is based on Swami Vishnudevananda’s (who is a disciple of Swami Sivananda the founder of the Ashram) five points for holistic evolution of body, mind, and soul:
Positive Thinking and Meditation
My days would begin at 5:30 am when I would awaken to the sounds of the ocean, the palm trees rustling in the wind, the birds chirping and a light bell ringing every 10 minutes until 6am when the serenity of early morning meditation would commence. At the ashram they believe the clear sea air helps restore the rested mind to focus and the body to be still. Half an hour of silent meditation is followed by joyful chanting, a spiritual talk or reading, and closing prayers. Next, at 8am, came a 2 hour session of asanas (yogic postures) and pranayama (yogic breathing techniques to invigorate the body and mind). After these rituals, we would have a wonderful vegetarian breakfast/ brunch at 10am, where we all lined up just outside the kitchen with our trays to get our nourishment. I would quickly gather my food and head for the best seat in the house, right on the sand in front of the beautiful clear waters. There is time which you are free to study, to attend a special workshop, to swim, relax on the beach, or go snorkeling. At 4pm is the second asana/pranayama class of the day. Your body achieves maximum stretch at this time and great progress can be made. Dinner is at 6pm, and satsang (meditation, chanting and talk) is at 8pm which completes the day. During the evening satsang there would usually be a talk by one of the special speakers, a concert, or a performance. Lights-out was always around 10pm. All guests were required to attend both satsangs and asana classes but I have never been one to follow the rules. By the 4th day my body felt a bit achy from 4 hours of yoga per day and the long walks on the beach. I chose to sleep in a few days and practiced either the morning or afternoon yoga class instead of both. Most of the day I spent on the beach reading and writing and indulging in some wonderful and intellectual conversations with my new found friends. I found plenty of time for body work; I treated myself to a daily massage and an Aruyvedic body treatment all of which were amazing! I was lucky enough to be there for the Easter holiday and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise ceremony full of joyful praise to the Lord. I am not a religious person but this ceremony was lovely and uplifting and made me realize just how special it is to connect with Faith.
The food was delicious however, but by the last day of my stay I was tired of the same food and the temptation of going across to Nassau or to Atlantis (which was on the other side of the beach) was sounding great for a farewell dinner. My new friend Kathy and I decided to have our final dinner at NOBU. I had no desire to see Atlantis but some of the guests at the Ashram kept talking about it and I didn't realize until after a few days that it was it was literally in plain sight. I walked through one day on my own to go see the Aquarium everyone was raving about. It was interesting to see the dynamic of the guests at The Atlantis resort compared to the Ashram. It was certainly like walking through Disneyland. After leaving the aquarium I couldn't wait to get back to the tranquility of the ashram. How ironic that these two different worlds can be physically so close yet spiritually so distant!
Lastly, my yoga adventure confirmed the importance of simplicity, balance, and community. The journey helped restore my faith, strengthened my yoga practice, enhanced my mind and purified my soul. It was a dynamic voyage that I look forward to taking again and again. I enjoyed the warm companionship and the connection with like-minded people from all around the world, which included sharing food, life stories, beliefs, and dreams. It was a truly holistic, revitalizing experience that left me recharged physically, mentally and spiritually!
Until next time,